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More Than Just Speed


In last years Reading Coach article, The Forgotten Element, I interviewed a fluency expert, Dr. Tim Rasinski. Todays classroom-ready tips focus on the most neglected area of fluency -- prosody or expressiveness. Dr. Rasinski calls it "making meaning with your voice."


My Favorite Poetry Books

* All the Small Poems and Fourteen More, by Valerie Worth (Farrar, 1994) -- Grades 2-8
* And the Green Grass Grew All Around: Folk Poetry for Everyone, by Alvin Swartz (Harper Collins, 1992) -- Grades 2-6
* April, Bubbles, Chocolate, compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins (Simon and Schuster, 1994) -- Grades K-3
* The Llama Who Had No Pajama: 100 Favorite Poems, by Mary Ann Hoberman (Harcourt, 1998) -- PreK-3
* Something on my Mind, by Nikki Grimes (Dial, 1986) -- Teens

Review each students reading levels (identified through assessments, guided reading observations or informal reading inventories). Select collections of poems (such as Shel Silversteins Falling Up or A Light in the Attic) using the following criteria:

  • the content appeals to my students
  • the material is on their independent reading level (95-100 percent accuracy)

Also print poems (or excerpts) from various authors and create mini-poetry books (a thin three-ring binder works fine). Alert the school media specialist of your need for this genre. Make sure you have enough selection for everyone.

At the start of each week, let students have five minutes to select a poem from one of the sources in your classroom. Throughout the week, when they have finished their class work, while waiting for buses or in the lunch line, let them practice reading and rereading their selected poems. Prompt students that they will have a chance to become the actor" and read their poems to the class. Coach those who need it in how to sound as though you are talking when you read" by using phrasing, expression, emphasis, and volume. Help others with vocabulary and background knowledge.

Late in the week, select three to four actors" to present their work. Allow them to bring props (a crown, a spoon, whatever). They cannot recite the poem -- they must read it. Youll be surprised at the performers you have. Youll insert a bit of fun into the learning equation and youll be giving students a chance to improve their prosody. A winning combination!

More Resources

Online Resources
* Addressing the Forgotten Element: Improving Fluency in Struggling Readers
* Assessing Fluency, Dr. Tim Rasinski: * Ideas on Performance Reading from ReadWriteThink (U.S. Dept of Education)

Print Resources
* The Fluent Reader, by Timothy V. Rasinski (Scholastic (2003) (More poetry ideas on pages 115 and following)
* What Research Has to Say About Fluency Instruction, by S. Jay Samuels and Alan Farstrup (International Reading Association, 2006)
* Building Fluency: Lessons and Strategies for Reading Success (paperback), by Wiley Blevins (Scholastic, 2002)

About the Author

Known as the "Literacy Ambassador," Cathy Puett Miller has a library science degree from Florida State University. Her writing appears in such print publications as Atlanta Our Kids, Omaha Family, and Georgia Journal of Reading, and online at Literacy Connections,,Education World, Family Network, and BabyZone. Be sure to visit Cathy's Web site at Click to read a complete bio.